Ed Miliband promised to cap the profits which private firms make from hospital treatment as he put plans to “rescue the NHS” at the heart of Labour’s general election campaign.
A Labour government would scrap the internal market in health commissioning and prevent companies from cherry-picking the most lucrative patient care contracts, he said.
Labour became first party to launch its election campaign, choosing the viewing platform at the Orbit Tower at the Olympic Park in London for the event. It followed a battling performance by Mr Miliband the night before in the first of the televised election debates.
He devoted the bulk of Friday's launch to the issue of health, accusing the Conservatives of plotting the creeping privatisation of the NHS and pledging to reverse the trend.
Mr Miliband announced Labour plans to limit private firms from making a profit of more than five per cent on hospital contracts, adding that any excess would be ploughed back into the NHS.
He also pledged to repeal the requirement in the Coalition’s health reforms for all contracts to be put out to competition, one third of which had been won by private companies since the reforms were put in place.
“It’s time to put patients before profits and stop privatisation,” he said. “It’s time to rescue the NHS from David Cameron and that is what we will do.”
Mr Miliband insisted Labour would spend £2.5bn more than the Conservatives on health through a “mansion tax” on properties worth more than £2m to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more family doctors and 3,000 more midwives.
The Labour leader, who was joined by the shadow Cabinet for the launch, told activists that they faced the “tightest general election for a decade”.
He said: “I know our opponents will throw everything they have our way, because they are desperate to hang on to power. But we know we can win this fight on behalf of the British people.
“We know we must stand up for working families. We know we must change Britain.”
He claimed the voters faced a choice on May 7 between pessimistic Tories and a Labour Party with a “spirit of optimism”.
The Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said: “A private sector profit cap sounds appealing but the devil would be in the detail and a simplistic policy could cause chaos for local hospitals.”
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